Temporomandibular Joint Disorders - Causes

TMJ syndrome has several possible physical causes:

  • Muscle tension. Overuse of jaw muscles can cause tightness in the temporomandibular joint. A common cause of muscle tightness is stress. People who are overly worried may clench or grind their teeth excessively, which can cause muscle tension.
  • Injury. A direct blow to the jaw or the side of the head can cause TMJ. The blow can break a bone, bruise soft tissue, or dislocate the temporomandibular joint itself.
  • Arthritis (see arthritis entry). Arthritis is a disease of joints caused by a number of factors. Arthritis in the region of the temporomandibular joint can cause TMJ.
  • Internal derangement. The temporomandibular joint contains a small piece of cartilage called a disc, which keeps the jawbone and the temporal bone from rubbing against each other. Sometimes the disc slips out of place creating what is known as an internal derangement. Often this condition can be detected by a clicking or popping sound caused by the disc moving in and out of its correct position. On rare occasions, the disc can become permanently displaced, and a patient may lose the ability to move his or her jaw in all normal ways.
  • Hypermobility. Hypermobility is a condition in which ligaments in the temporomandibular joint become loose. Ligaments are pieces of tissue that hold bones together. In cases of hypermobility, the jaw may slip entirely out of its socket.
  • Birth abnormalities. Children are sometimes born with defects in the temporomandibular joint. For example, the top of the jawbone may be too small. Such causes of TMJ are relatively rare.

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